• Simon Reilly

Wineloon's wines for Christmas - Part 2

If you read last week’s whistle stop tour around Wineloon’s tips to the best value fizz and whites you have probably since been to Sainsbury’s to bag some cheap booze and hopefully made some online acquisitions, or even better visited some of the independent wine shops I mentioned.

Whatever happened, I trust you now have enough champagne and white wine to drown a turkey.

With that in hand, you now need to think about some reds and something sweet or fortified for the Christmas pud, cheeseboard and general post-dinner armchair drinking.


For me, although its winter, Christmas is not about heavy wines. The food tends to be sweet and rich which lends itself to wines with good acidity and freshness, possibly a bit of spice.

For these three ingredients I naturally look towards Northern Italy. One of my favourite wine categories from this part of the world is Langhe Nebbiolo.

I have tasted a number of really excellent 2015 Langhe Nebbiolos this year, the best two being; GD Vajra’s (£23.95, Eton Vintners) and Brezza’s (£18, Fine & Rare Wines). Both have the fresh, red fruit acidity which would work very well with the turkey and a range of other meat dishes you serve up over the Christmas period.

In a similar vein, I made a great value discovery from Trentino in North-East Italy this year. Castel Firmian’s Teroldego Rotaliano Riserva, 2013 (£8.25 Wine Society) is an absolute steal. Crunchy red berries and cherries and loads of minerality make this a great food wine. Stock up.

If you have a preference for France, as many do, why not drag yourself away from the traditional hunting grounds of Burgundy and Bordeaux and look for something a bit more interesting.

First up, Loire Valley. The most planted red grape here is Cabernet Franc, so if you normally drink Bordeaux at Christmas you’re not straying that far from the norm here as most Bordeaux has Cabernet Franc in it anyway. In the Loire it is generally on its own, rather than blended as it is commonly on Bordeaux's left bank.

One of the Loire’s finest wine makers is Jacky Blot of Domaine de la Butte, and his Haute de la Butte 2015 (£17, Justerini & Brooks) is a great wine by a great winemaker in a great vintage. It has oodles of delicious blackcurrant fruit, refreshing acidity and enough body to stand up to the full festive fayre.

Something else from the Loire which is a little different and certainly one of the best bottles of wine I have tasted this year is Domaine Chahut et Prodiges’ “Les Tetes Noires”, Vin de France. It is made from Malbec, known in the Loire as Cot. But unlike the Malbec from South America, this has had very little pumping over during the wine-making process so the juice has come gently from the skins producing a light-bodied, perfumed, fruity and pure wine.

It is everything I want in a wine; fruit forward, high with energy, yet balanced and integrated. And best of all it is only 11% alcohol.

It is imported by Wines Under the Bonnet and is available to buy at 161 Food + Drink in Sydenham, South-East London for £21.

You need to leave the house to buy this one, but 161 is very hospitable. Go for a glass of wine and take a big bag with you as you’ll end up buying more than you planned once Al starts plying you with samples of his array of ace wines.

Another wine that graced my cellar this year is the Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge 2012 (£25, Wine Society). This is fuller bodied than the other reds listed above but is still balanced and fresh.

Hailing from the Languedoc in South-West France, it is a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine blended with an array of weird and wonderful varieties, most of which are not native to the Languedoc. A fascinating wine. If you fancy trying it buy a few bottles and stick some away for a few years to see it evolve. Decant for an hour before drinking it this Christmas.

My last red recommendation comes again from my trip to Lisbon earlier this year. Filipa Pato’s "Territorio Vivo" Baga, Bairrada 2015 (£16.50, Wine Society) knocked me off my perch when I tried it in a wine bar in Lisbon, it was so good. At the time I noted “flavours of blood and metal”. Sounds disgusting I know but its not, this shit is real.

Drinking brilliantly already, this is another wine with the legs to last a good few years. I highly recommend buying a six-pack. Drink some at Christmas and leave the rest to stew for a few years and see how the blood and metal develops….

Sweet & Fortified

Most of my family don’t go mad for dessert wines, but fortunately most come in half bottles so I feel less guilty about opening a bottle just for me. We have trifle at Christmas, so I normally go for a botrytis-style sweet wine like a Sauternes.

A similar wine I enjoyed revisiting this year was an Australian take on this style, De Bortoli’s Noble One. I first tried this more than 10 years ago when living out there and attended a tasting this summer where they showed a range of vintages back to the first in 1982. It was outstanding and although the older vintages were most interesting, the quality of the recent vintages shone through.

Bizarrely, Ocado are stocking the 2011 vintage just now, which I enjoyed at the tasting, at £16.99 per half bottle. I would recommend adding at least one of these to your online shopping list.

If you go for Christmas pudding, you’ll want something a bit richer and you’re veering towards fortified territory. You’re also veering towards the cheeseboard as the two wines I am about to suggest can work well with both courses.

I mentioned last week the deal on the Taylor’s 10 yo Tawny Port at Sainsbury’s. If you acted on that, then you’re sorted. If not, I suggest rather than paying more for the Taylor, you swallow hard and upgrade to the 20 yo Sandeman Tawny Port. I did a blind tasting of more than a dozen 20 yo tawnies at a wine competition earlier this year and this was by far my favourite. Its on offer at Waitrose just now, down from £37 to £28.49.

The second wine which will work with both the Christmas pud and the cheese is Emilio Lustau’s Pedro Ximenez Murillo (£14.49, Waitrose). This is properly like Christmas pud in a glass. Sweet and dense with the flavours of dried fruits.

If you don’t care much for sweet wines, but fancy something different to red wine with your cheeseboard then I suggest you try a dry sherry.

I recently enjoyed a dinner at Berry Bros & Rudd where only sherry was served, a first for me, but I was blown away by how well it all went with the food. In particular, the marriage of the cheese board and the Emilio Lustau Don Nuno Dry Oloroso, Solera Familiar (£16.50, Berry Bros & Rudd).

It has the weight and power of a port but without the clawing sweetness, the nuttiness going brilliantly with both hard and blue cheeses. Well worth a try.

Anyway that’s enough from me. That should keep you going until Hogmany. Have a great Christmas and drink well.

Here are the wines again with links to UK stockists;

GD Vajra, Langhe Nebbiolo 2015 (£23.95, Eton Vintners)

Brezza, Langhe Nebbiolo 2015 (£18, Fine & Rare Wines)

Castel Firmian, Teroldego Rotaliano Riserva, 2013 (£8.25, Wine Society)

Mas de Daumas Gassac Rouge 2012 (£25, Wine Society)

Domaine de la Butte, Haute de la Butte 2015 (£17, Justerini & Brooks)

Domaine Chahut et Prodiges, Les Tetes Noires, Vin De France (£22, 161 Kirkdale, Se23 - no online sales, get off your bum and go)

Filipa Pato, "Territorio Vivo" Baga, Bairrada 2015 (£16.50, Wine Society)

Sandeman 20 yo Tawny Port (£28.49, Waitrose)

Emilio Lustau, Don Nuno Dry Oloroso, Solera Familiar (£16.50, Berry Bros & Rudd)

De Bortoli Noble One 2011 (£16.99, Ocado)

Emilio Lustai, Pedro Ximinez, Murillo (£14.49, Waitrose)